On maps and imaginary places

I don’t think I’ve done a post on this. Have I done a post on this? *goes to look* Well, no ‘maps’ tags, so probably not…

I’ve had the Green Sky world in my head since I was very young. It started off as parts – the forest-land of Taderah came from the redwoods, and my childhood dream of living in a tree; the floating Islands of Tao were just because wouldn’t that be AWESOME? I have a scribbled map somewhere (done in those gel pens that smelled like strawberries and things, because those were the only coloured ones I could find at the time) that showed the lands we went ‘sailing’ around on our bed-ship. Some of the place names, I later realised, are villages in Dorset and Wiltshire that we drove past or through – Huish and Oare are real places! – and some of the names are simply made up. But most of it has origins that I can trace back to something.

So over the past few years (well, ten) it’s slowly become more coherent. Individual lands were brought together as parts of a whole; a desert world became a desert in another land, Quorl shrank to become grasslands and plains, and Meton/the Ridge/the Pass all became part of a mountain range. Tao hasn’t changed from those early drawings, and it’s hard to change a forest, but all the rest has been added to and condensed into one world.

But it was only last week that I actually sat down, for the first time, and drew out a proper map. I’ve done some before when I was vaguely trying to understand where people would travel from, but it’s never mattered. Now, with a story about mapping, I need to know where people are travelling from and to; I need to know what Jesse is mapping in my story. I need to be able to see what discoveries people could make. I need to see my world laid out in front of me.

Drawing the map provided a few extra bonuses. The first was that I can remember most of it without having to look things up (although I did have to check a few city names) – win! The second was that one of my previous story quests actually works if I send them ‘east’ instead of ‘north’, which is brilliant. (It also triggered the realisation that ‘north’ and ‘south’ would be cold, and I’ve written it as hot…I’m not the brightest when I’m writing. Luckily ‘east’ is equator so would be hot.) And the third realisation is that if my floating islands are on a volcanic vent, that could be traced back into some mountains, which provides me with a nice technological solution to float-ballast for the Fliyers and therefore a glimmer of an idea for another storyline.

I’ve got my sketchbook open next to me now, and I’m going to take it to work tomorrow to scan the picture in so I have a copy on my computer. I need to tidy it up, and at some point I’d love to get a professional copy drawn (or at least someone who draws better than I do). But until then, I’ve got something to reference, and I’ve got my world laid out in front of me.

Author: kate

Kate Coe is an editor, book reviewer and writer of fiction & fantasy. She writes the sparkpunk GreenSky series and blogs at writingandcoe.co.uk. When she's not working, she fills her spare time in between writing with web design, gaming, geeky cross-stitch and DIY (which may or may not involve destroying things). She also reads far fewer books that she would like to, but possibly more than she really has time for.